Last Night: Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw at Reliant Stadium


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Kenny Chesney's arms aren't quite as chiseled as McGraw's, but he must do a lot more cardio. The collar of his sleeveless shirt was soaked through after exactly one song, "Beer In Mexico," with which he opened his set on the satellite stage halfway across the stadium floor, then hitched that skycam ride across the crowd to the main platform in time for "Keg In the Closet." If someone hasn't invented a Kenny Chesney drinking game yet, someone should.

After those two straight rockers, we got "Summertime," another song that signaled nothing but sandy beaches and good times ahead. If the tropical breezes at the palm-shaded resorts pictured in his set's introductory video (co-starring Joe Walsh, Matthew McConaughey and Willie Nelson) had an actual sound -- warm, friendly, invigorating -- it would be a typical Kenny Chesney song.

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And if God hadn't tapped Chesney on the shoulder and said, "this one's a singer," he could have easily been a football coach or a drill sergeant. He just seems pumped, and who could blame him? Both his body language -- he did way more running while onstage than McGraw, who usually sashayed or sauntered -- and his remarks to the adoring crowd were all about how excited he was to be there to deliver his musical message.

Ironically, that message happens to be almost exclusively about relaxation.

"Why don't we all just check out for a couple of hours?" he said after another one of his mission statements, "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problems." In a way, there is a very existential core buried within Chesney's songs (very few people actually get to experience that sort of permanent-vacation lifestyle), but he is so persuasive and enthusiastic about the way that he sells it that you can almost smell the salt air in songs such as the reggae sunsplash of "When the Sun Goes Down."

But Chesney does allow a few clouds to darken his cloudless skies every now and again. Of course it's nothing life-threatening, but there's a real chill in the dying-relationship drama of his latest single, "Come Over." Appended with a chorus of some stray whoa-oh-ohs from the last two Kings of Leon albums, it is now resting at the top of the Billboard Country Songs chart.

"You and Tequila" is the rare song of his that presents booze as anything other than an after-work diversion; sung as an acoustic duet with opener Grace Potter (whose alt-blues band the Nocturnals made the most of the half-hour it did get), it was a pensive moment in a set full of songs about strictly living in the here and now.


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NRG Stadium

2 Reliant Park, Houston, TX

Category: Music


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